Action to save Moe hospital
By Ray Fulcher
MELBOURNE — A cavalcade of 1500 cars drove down the Princes Highway in Moe, Gippsland on July 31 to protest the government's plans to close the town's public hospital and replace it with a Gippsland regional hospital some 20 kilometres away in Churchill.
The protest was organised by a coalition of groups including: the Save the Hospital Group, which includes the Moe City Cuncil; the local ALP branch; and the community-based Save Moe Hospital Group. Kevin Taylor of the SMHG said that the intention of the Kennett government is to close the Moe and Traralgon public hospitals and replace them with a single private hospital halfway between the two towns.
There have been six reports into the viability of the two hospitals. One, the Atkinson report, recommended that the Moe hospital be sold and Traralgon's be developed. It also recommended entering into contracts with a private operator. When the Atkinson report was obtained by SMHG it showed that there was no basis for this recommendation and that the report found that Moe hospital was the more economically viable. The government has since claimed that it doesn't have the money to build a new hospital except though a joint venture with a private company.
The Moe hospital, which has a 300-bed capacity but only 150 in operation, is only 20 years old. It was built out of funds raised jointly by the then state government and the Moe community. Taylor believes that the government is keen to get rid of the hospital because it will be easier to privatise a hospital which is not seen by the local community as "their's".
"The ultimate goal of the government is to have a single hospital in the La Trobe Valley, privatise it and channel work to it from the six public hospitals in Gippsland," Taylor says.